Selected Works

Booklist, Starred review
"An eye-opening collection."
Charles Calhoun
"A marvelous work."
Library Journal
"Rich enough to repay multiple readings.”
"Longfellow lives again."
Times Literary Supplement
Winner of the Literature and Language Award, AAP
Winner of the 2009 Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab Award, American Library Association
A Darwin Bicentennial Exhibit, with many illustrations from the Darwin holdings of the Lilly Library.

Max Eastman: A Life

"A subtle portrait."
The Wall Street Journal


Max Eastman (1883–1969), a prolific poet, editor, and political gadfly, helped shape the twentieth century. While researching this masterful work, acclaimed biographer Christoph Irmscher was granted unprecedented access to the Eastman family archive, allowing him to document little known aspects of the famously handsome and charismatic radical. Considered one of the “hottest radicals” of his time, Eastman edited two of the most important modernist magazines, The Masses and The Liberator, published books on poetry and laughter, and campaigned for women’s suffrage, sexual freedom, and peace. A fierce critic of Joseph Stalin, Eastman befriended and translated Leon Trotsky and remained unafraid to express unpopular views, drawing criticism from both conservatives and the Left. Set against the backdrop of several decades of political and ideological turmoil, and interweaving Eastman’s singular life with stories of the fascinating people he knew and loved, this book will have broad appeal to readers interested in twentieth century history and politics, intellectual history, and literature.


“A shrewd, important, and revealing portrait of the ever-unrepentant Eastman.”—Jill Lepore, author of Joe Gould’s Teeth

“Eastman deserves a reintroduction, and Irmscher has done a magnificent job of dramatizing his life.”—George B. Hutchinson, Cornell University

“Christoph Irmscher has written a truly humane biography of a life that captures the last century’s transformations. Richly illustrated with photographs, artwork, letters, and published documents, Max Eastman gives the reader a full sense of the man who wrote poetry as well as trenchant political, literary, and philosophical essays, and who retained a lifelong interest in the sources of humor and laughter.”—Werner Sollors, author of The Temptation of Despair: Tales of the 1940s

“This revolutionary turned reactionary deserves to be studied again. A polarizing figure—much celebrated, much reviled—he was a true American original, and this clear-eyed biography is equal to the task.”—Nicholas Delbanco, author of Lastingness: The Art of Old Age

"It’s difficult to be a legend, but Max Eastman has at long last acquired the absorbing and revelatory biography he ought to have. Christoph Irmscher’s textured portrait is written with self-confident clarity, a keen archaeological eye, superb craft, and exemplary evidentiary standards. Surely definitive, Max Eastman disdains closets and dark places to reveal what it was like to have lived one of radicalism’s most remarkable lives."—Alan M. Wald, H. Chandler Davis Collegiate Professor of English Literature and American Culture, University of Michigan

Watch the trailer for Max Eastman: A Life

Christoph Irmscher lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with his wife, the composer Lauren Bernofsky, his children Nick and Julia, and his cats Jeremy and Annie (the latter named after the famous Hoosier “orphant,” of course). Christoph teaches English at Indiana University, where he also directs the Wells Scholars Program. He is now at work on a collection of Daniel Aaron's writings on the Literary Left. Christoph is represented by Andrew Stuart of the Stuart Agency in New York.